“Either you think, or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”
This quotation from Scott Fitzgerald’s novel Tender Is The Night is really resonating with me at the moment. In recent posts I’ve explored ideas about how improvisation and originality could counter a spreading culture of fixed thinking and received opinion. Cyberspace has become a virtual battlefield where a multitude of rival ideologies compete for our attention.
That some may be indisciplined and uncivilized doesn’t really lessen the thrust of Fitzgerald’s maxim. It may even speak louder in our internet era.
As social animals we naturally internalise cultural conflict but I suspect our solitary online existence makes it harder for us to process so much disparate input. Simply put: these days, when do we get to talk stuff over? Evolution has made us sophisticated interpreters of face-to-face interactions but are we quite so clever when it comes to mysterious coded messages left by individuals and/or groups whose facial expressions or body language – and therefore true motivations – we can’t read?
Nothing new, you might say, it’s a problem that’s been around at least as long as printing presses. But the provenance of books, newspapers and magazines is pretty easy to uncover. Checks and balances around conventional publishing have grown up over a period of almost 700 years. By comparison, the internet is a mere whippersnapper run wild who can only communicate through mysterious signs and signals in a strange language all its own.
Mowgli, maybe? But I’m reminded of another Rudyard Kipling tale, from his Just So Stories, where a little girl writes a picture message to her mum which is hilariously misinterpreted – much to the discomfort of the foreign gentleman who has kindly offered to deliver it. Highly recommended, if you’ve never read it – just click on How The First Letter Was Written.
And while I’m on the subject of stories for children, I think that the following short video offers a tidy little reminder of online etiquette rules. Not that you need reminding, of course … being a fine, upstanding and wholly honourable member of the blogging community! But you may find it handy when crossing the little wooden bridge over the stream to the lush green pastures beyond – trip trap! – only to hear a deep, gruff, grumbly voice beneath you …